The Call of Duty League Major III is live in Toronto this week. It is both the first Canadian LAN CDL and the first Canadian live esports event since the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to all northern plans. Players, fans and staff in attendance expressed their excitement not only about representing their countries, but about making this return to LAN one for the history books.
The CDL opener of the Toronto Major turned into a five-map nailbiter from the Seattle Surge and the New York Subliners. The crowd followed every second with bated breath, from Surge’s 2-0 lead to the start of the Subliners’ reverse sweep. He made it all the way to round 11 on map five, the real defining moment for both teams. With the game on the line, Surge managed to win that final round and the series with the crowd going wild.
“Every two piece we got, every momentum we killed, the crowd just kept getting louder and louder,” said Lamar “Accuracy” Abedi of the Seattle Surge. “Especially in Call of Duty, those impulse kills can help you win.”
When asked about the feel of the venue, both Accuracy and teammate Amer “Pred” Zulbeari agreed that Toronto was one of a kind, relative to previous LAN events.
“I haven’t been to many LAN events, but this environment is different,” said Pred. “Toronto is a great place for games like this.”
Long time coming to Toronto
Part of the atmosphere is thanks to all the Canadian CDL fans who couldn’t make it to the US LAN games. They took their first chance to cheer on the Toronto Ultra in person to the fullest. While team veteran Benjamin “Bance” Bance said that Ultra felt some pressure on Day 1, they eventually learned to thrive in the crowd.
“The crowd has been on our side the whole time we’ve been here and, especially after we lost the first map against Paris, I knew we had to win,” Bance said. “There was no way we were going to lose two games and say our goodbyes to those die-hard fans.”
The Ultra followed up their loss to the Atlanta FaZe with a much-needed win, sending the crowd into a frenzy. All the Ultra players commented on how all the noise and support from the fans lifted their spirits once they started winning.
“This was the first time we were in front of a crowd like this,” said Jamie “Insight” Craven. “When, as a team, you get a kill and the crowd cheers you on, it’s amazing. We are used to the boos and whistles from the other LANs, but now we have the fans on our side.”
However, those boos still exist on the LAN, just to different teams. In this case, since Atlanta had the misfortune to beat the home team 3-1, they walked offstage to a disgruntled crowd. Still, according to Tyler “aBeZy” Pharris, used that energy to propel them into the future.
“The city of Toronto itself is super vibrant. The crowd is crazy and it’s been super fun so far,” said aBeZy. “As far as booing, I feel like we’re used to being booed at these live events. We use it as motivation for our games.”
In that first series against Ultra, aBeZy got off to a slow start to the series as the crowd cheered his opponents’ success. After Atlanta had a rough time in Search and Destroy, the team turned it on its head. When maps 3 and 4 came out, he was the focal point of Atlanta’s victory.
Despite the loss, dedicated Ultra fans kept their spirits high. Some, like Connor McAvoy, went out of their way to be there in person to support their team. As soon as he learned that a LAN CDL was coming to Toronto, he said he looked for any opportunity to volunteer for the event.
“I was so excited that I basically harassed Overactive Media on all platforms to try to help,” McAvoy said. “I need to be there, I need to help. I want to see everything behind the scenes.”
That same mindset that led him to volunteer at the event applied regardless of the outcome of the Ultra games. As a Toronto local, McAvoy said he just wanted to cheer on his team, whether they lost to FaZe or beat Paris, Florida or Minnesota.
“Guys have been solid recently, coming back together in the last couple of weeks,” McAvoy said. “I have full faith in the guys, and the home fans will always show up, win or lose, and make some noise.”
Overseas fans can see the best Call of Duty game in Canada
While tons of Toronto locals demonstrated just how loud they could be on this first LAN, many others decided to make the trip after nothing more than watching parties to simulate the live experience. Some, like Ant Stonelake and Charlie Cater, came all the way from the UK to make it to the Toronto Major.
After spending a few weeks in Boston before the event, Stonelake said she got up early to get to the city well before the event began. And even though it rained, as it often does at home, he said everything felt good once he got to his seat on the spot. When he started the first match, he started the hype. Cater said he experienced a similar but familiar feeling.
“To me, this event has a similar feel to London in 2020,” said Cater. “Both times it was the country’s first LAN in the CDL, and while the London fans were amazing, it’s clear these Toronto fans want to do the same.”
Major III is almost over in Toronto, but fans still have a lot to celebrate. The Ultra are one of only four teams left with a chance to win the event. But whether they make it to the grand finals or not, the city and its fans are certainly winners after holding a LAN for the CDL to remember.